This post is not for those of you who are holding nightly vigils near Michael Jackson posters.
This post is for those of us who have conflicting feelings about the passing of Michael Jackson (henceforth referred to as MJ).
When I first heard about his sudden death and the flood of grief and shock, I was confused. After all, the MJ that everyone is grieving right now, the one who was an innovator in music and in dance, 'died' about 20 years ago. Within the last 20 years, MJ has turned into a caricature, a person haunted by both personal and external demons.
In the last 20 years, MJ
- had lightened his skin
- had one too many rhinoplasties
- had married and divorced Elvis' daughter (not before filming a creepy music video in which they both appear naked)
- was accused of child abuse countless times (at least one case was settled out of court)
- dangled his baby from a balcony
- went to trial for child abuse charges
- went to said trial in pajamas
- agreed to appear in a documentary about his life
- did not appear to be lucid in said documentary
- admitted to lying in bed with children (little boys specifically) and expressed how there was nothing wrong with that (in said documentary).
Although MJ was found not guilty of child abuse charges (for the record, OJ was found not guilty too), the court of public opinion had already condemned him (myself included). The documentary did nothing to change my mind about this, particularly his comment about sharing his bed with boys. I wonder, if MJ had a fondness for sharing his bed with little girls, would his fans still believe in his innocence? Would there have been a bigger public outrage? Would his fans have gotten over that pretty quickly just as they did with his alleged abuse of little boys? What is it about celebrities that we are so quick to forget their transgressions?
As you know, I see a lot of substance abuse and mental illness in my line of work and my opinion is that MJ is a classic case of both. I have no doubt that MJ was mentally ill. The longtime abuse from his money-grubbing father and an entire lifetime in the spotlight does not leave someone unscarred by the experience. If anything, I feel much sadness that MJ never got the help he truly needed, probably because the people he surrounded himself with only saw him as a meal ticket, rather than a human being crying out for help. Instead of getting real help, MJ self-medicated (I read somewhere that the only things that were in his stomach at the time of death were pills). And all of those around him probably noticed but decided to look away.
The Michael Jackson everyone is mourning now has long been gone. Celebrity friends are coming out of the woodwork, commenting about how troubled he was and how they knew it all could end this way. Well, then, so-called friends, where the f*ck were you all when he was down and out and looking to prescription drugs for help?
I do feel like an outsider (or even more of a minority than I usually feel) because I'm not crying over MJ's death while so many are. His sudden death does not surprise me. Yes, he was a musical innovator. He was a great singer and entertainer. But he was also a troubled person who sought comfort in drugs and the company of little boys.
Michael Jackson was a victim who victimized. I can't mourn someone who hurt others. But I can be sad because his cries for help were never answered.